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Taking some ‘me time’? Workers take TEN TIMES as long to poo while at work

Dropping the kids off at the pool; going to see a man about a dog – whatever colourful euphemism you use, it’s a fact of life that all of us need to use the toilet. But British workers have been revealed to be spending up to ten times as long going about their ‘business’ while on the clock than they do at home.

A study across 8 UK cities (3514 surveyed July 2019), produced by British health and safety software tech start up company Protecting.co.uk has uncovered a dark truth – that British workers are extending their toilet breaks much longer than the average time taken for a bowel movement.

Research undertaken by some lucky scientists has shown that the average mammal takes just 12 seconds to pass a bowel movement, regardless of the animal’s (or bowel movement’s!) size, which may seem speedy. For humans, we have to factor in time to remove the necessary clothing, check your fly is zipped afterwards, and wash your hands, which means the average toilet trip takes around 2 minutes and 50 seconds

Canny workers, then, are clearly sticking the humorous expression “Boss makes a dollar, I make a dime, that’s why I poop on company time”, with some respondents taking up to 28 minutes in the bathroom during a working day. Not everyone is quite so laissez-faire about their toilet trips, however – results showed the hard-working people of Birmingham took the least time, with an average of 4 minutes and 45 seconds, while Londoners – perhaps overworked from life in the busy capital – topped the survey.

Toilet breaks in time (average)

Aberdeen                    6 minutes, 48 seconds
Birmingham                  4 minutes, 45 seconds
Cardiff                         8 minutes, 15 seconds
Leeds                          14 minutes, 50 seconds         
London                        28 minutes, 35 seconds
Manchester                 12 minutes, 10 seconds
Newcastle                   5 minutes, 55 seconds
Southampton               10 minutes, 20 seconds

Some of the survey respondents were relaxed about their leisurely toilet breaks – Rob Lindly, 35, from Bingley, said: “I check Twitter, I have a look at the football news, maybe make a few bets – nobody ever notices I’m gone, so I don’t see why I should hurry up!”, and one  – who wished to remain anonymous – even added: “Every time my boss is a bit shirty with me, I take an extra-long poo break to wind him up”.

Others, however, are simply used to taking their time. One London resident admitted shamefacedly, “I do take ages, but I forget I’m not at home – I sort my hair out, I might text a few of my friends, check social media… I’m not spending the whole time on the toilet!”.

It might seem like a harmless way to take a break when working life gets a bit too much, but how do these extended trips to the bathroom affect employers? Businesses in London, for example, might be losing almost two and a half hours of working time per week for each employee – ten hours a month, or a staggering 120 hours per year. With the average hourly wage sitting at £12.78 in 2018, this adds up to £1533.60 per year – per employee.

Even those with a shorter average toilet break could still find themselves losing hours of productivity per week, particularly businesses with lots of employees – so how can employers protect themselves without sending monitors into bathrooms armed with air freshener and a stopwatch?

Protecting.co.uk spokesperson, Mark Hall, said:

“This is one of those unseen things which can actually materially affect the bottom line for many employers without them realising – employee productivity isn’t just things like how focused they are while they’re at their desk, for example, but also whether extra minutes either side of breaks or extended toilet trips are eating into their working time.

“Of course, employers should be mindful that some people live with conditions which affect their digestive systems and respond appropriately – shaming employees for their toilet habits is unlikely to create a good feeling in the workplace. But monitoring employee productivity is key, and encouraging high productivity with incentives or small perks could help cut down these lost hours – and a reminder to those employees who disappear off to play games on their phone that they are carrying faecal matter and germs around with them all day might help put them off!”